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Dinky passes buck : Blames LGU for dumping of relief

By Ronald O. Reyes, Merck Maguddayao and Joyce Pangco Panares

 

TYPHOON victims in Eastern Visayas on Tuesday slammed the government for burying rotten relief goods in a dumpsite in Palo, Leyte, a town that was devastated by super typhoon Yolanda last year.

Controversial dump. A Palo, Leyte, resident, who
asked not be identified for fear of retaliation,
points to where a truckload of relief packages
were buried at one of the town’s remote villages.
The residents later dug up the goods (inset photos),
some of which were still edible. RONALD REYES
“This is utterly outrageous!” said Dr. Eflida Bautista, spokesperson for the group People Surge. “While thousands of Yolanda victims are still languishing in hunger the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which is mandated to look after them, buries truckloads of relief goods because they are unfit for human consumption?”

“Why blame the donors for expired goods? Why blame the victims for not claiming them? Why not blame themselves for not having an efficient system of distribution?” Bautista said, referring to the DSWD and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.

On Monday, Palo Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Nina Balderas admitted that “truckloads of expired and spoiled relief goods were dumped and buried in an open dumpsite in Barangay San Jose (of Palo) last Feb. 5 and March 6, 2014.”

Biscuits, cupcakes, canned goods, and even rice were declared as being unfit for human consumption and were buried after they began emitting foul odors, she said.

Used clothing was also dumped.

“It was raining almost every day here in Leyte when these goods were delivered to us so the rice was wet, and entire deliveries’ were drenched by rainwater so that even the canned goods were spoiled.”

The DSWD officer blamed some donors “who donated goods which were about to expire or were already expired.”

Residents near the dumpsite were angry.

“I don’t understand why this is happening, this dumping of relief, when immediately after the typhoon many of us went without food and clothing,” said one parent, who added that out of her need to get a food, she went to the dumpsite and picked up some canned sardines.

Another parent said she felt the food had gone to waste.

“DSWD should have a good system in distributing relief goods before they arrive and before it expires,” she said.

But Soliman on Tuesday blamed the municpal government of Palo, Leyte, saying it was its responsibility distribute the food aid.

Sharing courage. Members of the government
employees’ union Courage share a meal of boiled
cassava and taro with the victims of Typhoon
Yolanda, in front of the National Housing Authority
in Quezon City, to exemplify the kind of food they
have had to eat over the past four months while
the food aid from foreign countries spoil in
government custody. MANNY PALMERO
In a radio interview Tuesday, Soliman that Palo’s municipal social welfare and development officer (MSWDO) Nina Balderas was under the mayor of Palo, Remedios Petilla.

“If the municipal social welfare development officer is the one talking, she is under the mayor and not under our jurisdiction,” Soliman said.

Soliman said there were two main sources of relief in Leyte--the national government through the Department of Social Welfare and Development and international sources led by the United Nations.

She said goods that arrived through the UN was the international agency’s responsibility.

“We can’t intervene,” she said.

“The UN coordinates with us by giving us information about the distribution of their relief. Sometimes, they go directly to village councilors. It’s the jurisdiction of the municipal government,” Soliman added.

She added that the one receiving and signing for relief was a representative from the Municipal Social Welfare Department Office.

“If we need to help in transporting the goods to villages because the municipal government has no vehicles, we will help with the MSWDO, then we will have the relief [papers] signed by the village council or municipal authorities for audit,” she said.

Soliman added that the original rice allocation for typhoon Yolanda victims was 20 kilos, not 25.

“We have recently added five kilos to the original allocation but originally, the allocation was 20 kilos,” she said.

She said she would coordinate with the Palo MSWDO and municipal government to ensure the fast distribution of relief and cash-for-work jobs.

She also said she would look into reports that some DSWD staff were pressuring typhoon victims to sign papers that gave the department high marks.

“That is fraud, that is criminal. We don’t conduct such feedback surveys,” Soliman said.

At the same time, she challenged typhoon survivors to present proof of their allegations that they were coerced into signing a testimonial saying they were satisified with the government response to the disaster in exchange for P1,200.

“I think whoever alleges -- and that is a very serious allegation -- should present concrete proof. It is not the duty of the government to violate laws,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said.

“It is the duty of government to implement laws, to protect the welfare of our citizens. So whoever is accusing the government of doing otherwise, they should present proof. It is not just that they smear the reputation of any official without basis,” Coloma added. enedictine nun Edita Eslopor, head of the umbrella alliance of Yolanda survivors People Surge, said residents in calamity-hit areas were being pressured into signing prepared testimonials praising the government and DSWD for its handling of the disaster.

“In some cases, some victims were even bribed by as much as P1,200 in exchange for their signatures, signifying satisfaction over services of DSWD,” Eslopor said.

In a text message coursed through presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Soliman said: “Give us the name of the DSWD staff who is doing it and we will investigated. If they can give names, we will investigate.”

In Tacloban City, the DSWD regional office said it would send a team to look into the reported burial of truckloads of rotten relief goods in a dumpsite in Barangay San Jose in Palo, Leyte.

DSWD regional director Nestor Ramos said that he only learned of this when he heard Balderas admitting the need to dump food packs, sacks of rice and used clothing on a local radio station.

Ramos said that he was surprised by the revelation as he had not received any report from MSWD office of Palo.

Coloma, meanwhile, said the government would investigate the reports.

“We need to know if there have been lapses resulting in the failure to distribute the relief goods before these went stale. Absent that, if the relief goods are indeed expired, it will be irresponsible to distribute them still,” he said.

About 200 Yolanda survivors who traveled to Metro Manila were scheduled to meet with Soliman at the DSWD offices in Quezon City at 4 p.m. today.

Eslopor, a Benedictine nun and leader of People Surge alliance, said Soliman had initiated a dialogue with People Surge to iron out their differences and get rid of doubts on the issue of government neglect to handle the typhoon crisis.

“Soliman was the one who made the first move for an appointment,” Eslopor told the Manila Standard.

People Surge is preparing documentary evidence to show government pressure on some victims, and to present testimonial evidence of food aid rotting in warehouses, she said. With Marvin T. Modelo and Rio N. Araja

 

 

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